Big Isle farm accident kills Colorado exec


POSTED: Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A 66-year-old Colorado utility executive who was set to retire this summer was killed on his Big Island farm Sunday night after he was pinned under an overturned tractor.

Hamlet “;Chips”; Barry, manager of Denver Water for 19 years, was dead when Hawaii County firefighters arrived at his farm on Paauilo Mauka Road in Honokaa at 7:45 p.m. Firefighters used airbags to prop up the tractor and remove Barry's body.

“;We are greatly saddened by the news,”; said Penfield Tate, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners, in a statement.

Grief counselors are being made available to the water utility's 1,100 employees, according to the company.

Barry announced his plans to retire in January and planned to remain at the company until June.

He had been in charge of Denver Water since 1991.

“;It's a shock to everybody, obviously, who knew him and worked with him and loved him,”; said Jim Lochhead, who was appointed last month to succeed Barry.

Lochhead planned to take over on June 1. He said he was not sure whether that would change.


Denver Water serves about 1.3 million people in Denver and some suburbs.

Barry was widely credited with revitalizing the utility and changing its approach after federal regulators rejected its plan to build the massive Two Forks dam and reservoir in 1990.

Under his leadership, the utility switched to a more cooperative and less confrontational style, said Patty Limerick, a University of Colorado historian who is writing a history of Denver Water.

“;I really think that this was an inspiring effort to try to think bigger,”; Limerick said yesterday.

In a written statement, Gov. Bill Ritter said Barry “;revolutionized Denver Water, making it a national leader in conservation and a better partner for everyone who cares about this state.”;

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called Barry “;an extraordinary man and public servant.”; Barry's work ethic and ability to work with a wide diversity of people made him a highly effective manager and advocate for the environment, said Salazar, a former executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Barry was a Denver native who graduated cum laude from Yale College in 1966 and earned a law degree from Columbia University Law School in 1969. Prior to his position at Denver Water, he was executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources for Gov. Roy Romer from 1987 to 1990.

Barry produced macadamia nuts, honey and coffee on his 8-acre Hawaii farm. In an April interview he said he planned to spend more time there after retiring but would live in Denver.

He is survived by wife Gail, a Denver landscape architect, and two sons. Funeral arrangements were pending.

Star-Bulletin reporter Gregg K. Kakesako and The Associated Press contributed to this report.